A big temptation for communications professionals is the “one size fits all” message.
Whether it’s the burden of too much work and too little time, the almost overwhelming variety of media outlets and blogs, or simply wanting to avoid the tedium of researching audience segments, many of us find it easier to “mass blast” a release or send a pitch to all the media outlets we imagine would be interested. But despite all the factors that may be leading you into temptation, resist.
A generic message will not make as strong an impression as more targeted communications. Plus, if your audience figures out that you’re sending them a “canned” message, you run the risk of alienating them.
Whether you’re writing a pitch, a press release, a lead generation offer, a speech, etc., take the time to tailor your words to meet the needs and interests of your audience or segments of your audience.
Identify Your Target(s)
Developing a message targeted to your audience involves understanding who your audience is, which may involve a number of tasks. If you’re lucky, it may be as quick and simple as looking over a Google Analytics report but odds are, it will take a little more effort:
- Try talking with your salespeople and customer service personnel to find out about the target audience’s issues and concerns.
- Find resources for studying the demographics and psychographics of your existing or prospective audience.
- Visit trade conventions, fairs, exhibitions sales outlets as well as online groups and social media to talk to clients, prospects and their influencers.
- If you’re giving a speech, talk to the event organizer about his/her objectives, the audience and their interests, etc.
You may not have to do every single one of these tasks but you will probably have to do a few of them as well as a few other tactics.
If you’re targeting media outlets, study the topics they cover and their readership. Just because two media outlets appear to cover the same area does not mean that they are both prime targets for your message. For example, Flying Adventures Magazine and Plane and Pilot sound like they’re both for people who love to fly, so they’re both likely to be receptive to the same kind of messages, right? Actually, Flying Adventures Magazine covers lifestyle travel for people with access to private aircraft while Plane and Pilot covers general aviation issues for pilots, instructors, technicians, etc.
Tailor Your Content to Your Target(s)
When your message will be of interest to different target audiences, make sure you tailor it to address each group’s specific needs or interests. Sometimes it takes no more than a change of headlines and a few strategic words.
For example, release headlines for a new audio program that helps individuals learn Spanish can state “New Language Program Teaches Business Spanish in 40 Lessons” for media outlets targeting businesses.
A release aimed at educators could read “New Audio Teaching Aid for Spanish Instructors,” or “Spanish Students Reinforce Language Skills with New Audio Tutorials” to attract both teachers and parents.
Communication experts often advise tying your pitch to a journalist’s recent work, if possible (warning: some reporters say that simply mentioning their most recent article comes off as disingenuous). I found an interesting post from March Communications about the importance of tailoring pitches. As it turns out, not looking into the history of a company’s interactions with a particular journalist can also cause a somewhat awkward situation.
Sure you’re busy and targeting takes a lot of time, but at the very least you’ll be respected as a professional. At most, you’ll find more of your target audience responding to your message.